Buchanan Calls on Feds to Declare Coronavirus a Public Health Emergency
WASHINGTON – As the deadly coronavirus continues to spread, Congressman Vern Buchanan today called on federal officials to declare a public health emergency that would allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to tap into millions of dollars in federal funding to combat the outbreak.
“Speed is essential in dealing with infectious diseases that threaten all Americans,” Buchanan said, adding, “taking precaution now could save lives later. That’s why I’m calling on the Department of Health and Human Services to formally declare a public health emergency so our government can respond quickly to contain the threat.”
Declaration of a public health emergency would unlock up to $85 million within the CDC’s Infectious Disease Rapid Response Reserve Fund. These funds would provide the nation’s top disease fighters with flexibility and much-needed resources to respond immediately to help contain a potential outbreak.
“Too much about this outbreak is unknown, and it’s especially troubling to learn that the virus could be transmitted by an infected person even before symptoms appear,” Buchanan said.
U.S. health officials are currently monitoring 110 people across 26 states for the virus, including five patients who are confirmed to have contracted the diseases in China and returned the United States. The number of patients under investigation in the U.S. has nearly doubled since the end of last week. Former FDA Administrator Scott Gottlieb cautioned that “global spread appears inevitable. So too are the emergence of outbreaks in the U.S.”
According to Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the CDC has screened roughly 2,400 people flying from Wuhan, China to five major U.S. airports and is considering expanding its screening. And while the CDC has yet to designate the virus a public health emergency, Messonnier warned, “This outbreak is unfolding rapidly.”
Buchanan said the federal funds could be used to increase staffing, enhance screening at ports of entry, and provide critical resources for state and local health departments.
The virus, which originated in Wuhan, China has so far killed more than 100 people in China and sickened more than 4,500 worldwide. Symptoms of the virus in humans include fever, coughing, shortness of breath, pneumonia and more severe respiratory illness that can be fatal.
In 2018, Congress established the Infectious Diseases Rapid Response Reserve Fund to help the CDC prevent, prepare for or respond to “an infectious disease emergency” either in the U.S. or abroad. In 2017, following scares from the Zika and Ebola viruses, Congressman Buchanan led efforts in Congress to create a “rapid-response fund to combat deadly infectious diseases” that threaten public health.